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Air Force trains at Griffiss for rapid response to worldwide disasters

By ANNA MEILER

ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Whether it's a coast-ravaging hurricane, an earthquake or a terrorist attack, there are Air Force personnel ready to respond. On Wednesday some of those crews trained at Griffiss International Airport in Rome.

Crews trained using the C-5M Super Galaxy- the largest aircraft in the Air Force and the first on the scene of a disaster. The inside is 214 feet long, covered in 6,000 pounds of paint.

"Everything about this aircraft is over the top," said Tech Sgt. Parker Gyokeres.

It can hold six helicopters or 65 tons of cargo, including tanks, ammunition and even ballistic missiles. These crews are in charge of setting up air fields in disaster areas, establishing communication and when these massive planes land, they unload and get to work.

"We're always training to make sure we're ready to go to war and this is just one of those exercises that we do on a regular basis to make sure we're on the right track," said Commander Lt. Col. Jeff Armentrout who is in charge of the 200-member squadron that operates the plane.

Air Force members say the training is crucial because there is so much at stake.

"When Haiti happens you want to be able to get there to get relief and help to the people who need it as soon as possible. So the ability to come here and practice that- you're able to get the new folks sped up on what you do, the folks who are experienced get proficient at what they do. So, when you get there instead of a matter of hours of getting ready, it will be a matter of minutes," said David Gaulin, contingency response commander.

The long runways at Griffiss serve as the perfect training spot and the community benefits from its draw.

"They're staying in our hotels, they're eating in our restaurants, they're getting involved in community so not only does it trickle just for the base, but the local community in Rome, Utica and the surrounding areas," said Samuel D'Urso, general manager of Millionaire Rome.

Griffiss is also better off because with more activity, they can receive more funding from the FAA.

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